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Delhi HC stays PCI’s order regarding ad in Hindustan newspaper

The order barred government agencies from placing advertisements in the newspaper.

New Delhi: The Delhi high court stayed a directive passed by the Press Council of India (PCI) to government departments, which had effectively stopped government advertisements in some editions of the Hindi daily, Hindustan.

The directions were passed by the court while hearing a plea filed by Hindustan Media Ventures Ltd, which had challenged the PCI’s order, Live Law reported.

On 22 January, PCI had “censured” Hindustan newspaper stating that it had not clarified that a certain content printed in its Dehradun edition was an advertisement, as required by the norms of journalistic conduct framed by it. PCI also communicated the order to various governmental advertising agencies including the DAVP and sought an `action taken report’.

The counsel for Hindustan argued before the court, that even though the word ‘advt’ does appear in very small font size and print in the advertisement, the impugned order and the communication of the Press Council has, in effect, barred all government agencies from placing advertisements in the said newspaper. He also submitted that PCI’s order was "beyond the powers contemplated under Section 14 of the Press Council Act and was also arbitrary.”

After analysing the order, the court was of the opinion that it indeed gave the impression that government agencies cannot place any advertisements in the said newspapers, even though no such direction was part of the order. Therefore, it decided to stay the PCI’s order communicated to all government departments on 28 January to take action and submit the action taken report.

It further stated that the ramifications of the impugned communication can be quite detrimental to the financial health of the publication, if all government advertising is directed to be stopped due to an order of `censure’ passed by the Press Council.

The case was adjourned for next hearing on 22 April.

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